By Junsui Films | March 2012
Writer/director, David Wain, talks exclusively to Junsui Films about his journey from stand-up comedian to filmmaker and tells us all about his latest film, WANDERLUST…
Junsui Films: It’s been over twenty years since you first broke on to the comedy scene with The State and since then you’ve gone onto work on a variety of projects in various roles. Tell us a little bit about your journey and how your experiences have helped shape you as a filmmaker.
David Wain: It’s been a lot of ups and downs. Many many failed or cancelled projects, each of which has lit the fire under me to keep going. And over and over again I’ve learned that if I stick to my guns, listen to and honour my own voice, those projects tend to be more fulfilling, if not always profitable!
For example, the three years it took to raise the money to make (my first movie) Wet Hot American Summer was spent largely working on that script until it was so tight that we were able to shoot it with a very limited budget and schedule. I try to learn and do better every time out.
JF: You’ve written, produced, directed and starred in features, TV, and even a web series. What are the main differences between the various mediums?
Each has its own challenges and rewards. In the smaller stuff I love the immediacy, the speed, the control and the fun. Larger things afford me more resources and more time, which is also great. Everything has trade-offs.
JF: You’ve built up a vehement following with your body of comedy work. What is it about the genre that continues to attract and interest you?
I don’t think of it really as a genre that’s of interest to me as much as that’s it’s just what I do. I don’t even think, “this next thing should be a comedy”. I just think about the subject matter, the material, the people, the medium – whatever it is that initiates something and go forward. And my brain steers it toward comedy.
JF: Despite the cult success of Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten, your first big studio picture was Role Models. How did you find the transition into ‘mainstream’ comedy?
In many ways not as hard as I thought. The basic activity of making a movie is the same either way. But it was definitely challenging dealing with the extra level of contrasts and the greater number of cooks.
JF: Let’s talk Wanderlust. How did the project come about?
Ken Marino and I were interested in the idea of making a radical choice in your life, and the idea of communal living specifically, both for its thematic interest and its comic potential. So we went to work and very quickly (in one week) spat out a first draft. Five quick years later it’s on the screen.
JF: Tell us about your creative partnership with Ken [Marino] and how you guys approach writing a project together?
We live on separate coasts, so we tend to lock ourselves up for limited intense writing periods to get a project started. We just sit there in a room; I type, Ken paces. And we talk and act out and write write write. Once we have a draft we get feedback and just keep working, often over Skype between NY and LA.
JF: Judd Apatow also served as producer on Wanderlust. How involved was he in the making of the film?
He helped us in a major way with every aspect of it, from rewriting the script to casting through shooting, editing and marketing. We were excited to partner with someone who has the unmatched comedic chops and experience that Judd has.
JF: The film attracted a stellar cast, including Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux and Malin Akerman. How did you go about casting and were any of the actors attached during the writing process?
None were attached. We somewhat wrote the Rudd and Theroux parts with actors in mind. The rest we approached after we’d gotten the movie set up at the studio. Many of the actors we knew personally and asked them to join up, others were found through auditions.
JF: How was the shoot? I imagine with such comedic talent involved, many lines, even scenes often changed due to an actor’s input and portrayal.
Yes, changes happened at every juncture and the script changed dramatically every day. Then we’d try out many variations and improvisations in every scene. Lots to keep track of!
JF: And finally, what next for David Wain?
Right now I’m editing Childrens Hospital’s 4th season – a comedy series on Adult Swim here in the US. Gearing up for a new series called Newsreaders, and lots more to come.